An abstract of Rita Marhaug’s article in:
“Frist Move: Performance Art Bergen 2011–15”
Performance art happens where the artist is. In the practical sense, performance is fundamentally grounded in location. In Norway and Bergen region specially, the attitude amongst artists who are interested in and work with this art form has been characterized by enthusiasm and community spirit; time honored concepts which have their roots in traditional Norwegian sensibilities. The quantity of artists has been foreseeable, and older colleagues have seen the importance of including new voices in this fluid, as yet not entirely institutionalized language.
It was precisely the lack of institutions willing to take an interest in performance art, which directly instigated the need to create some kind of organized measure. In this context, is it important to be reminded that performance as a genre was introduced to Norwegian audiences quite early, through artists such as Kjartan Slettemark and Gruppe 66 in the 60’s. Much has already happened in Vestlandet (The Westlands). 1984 saw the first edition of Bergen’s International theatre Festival. From 1990, Teatergarasjen (The Theatre Garage) in Bergen became established as a venue for the performing arts and independent theatre.
After a quiet period for experimental, temporary art forms throughout the 1980’s ,the following decade once again took up the thread of performance and live art from the 1970’s. This time, the impetus was not first and foremost to be provocative or avant-garde, but rather to explore new ways and means of meeting the audience. A few venues for a growing group of artists in Bergen facilitated Mellom rommene (Between Spaces) in 1990. This was the starting shot for a series of experiments in form for the dissemination of art over the next fifteen years.
The legendary Galleri Otto Plonk came and went between the years of 1995–98. “Not just a place that showed art, but a place that produced situations and contexts in an expanded understanding of the concept of art.” Otto Plonk’s openness towards live art brought important inspiration to young local artists, but also to an emerging Northern art scene. At the outset of 2000, a new role had emerged in the Norwegian art scene: freelance curators. This was the time when the relational aesthetic pushed through into being [and with Street Level in autumn 2000] one of the most important aspects was to make the street a platform for experimentation and artistic reflections on social and urban structure.
Bergen established itself as a center for performance in the context of visual art. As a consequence of the “City of Culture” status, the council also accepted “Action Plan for Art and Artists in the Cultural City of Bergen.” This was a ten year plan for artists, ensuring some finance and long-sighted vision, which earlier had been absent or merely incidental.
After many events and exchanges by performance artists between Bergen and other cities (Poznan and Barcelona were two) from the end of 90’s to the beginning of the millennium, Robert Alda, Kurt Johannessen and Rita Marhaug formed the members association AktB, to give the activities a clearer frame and identity. The main focus of the association was “Between Sky and Sea.” The idea was simple: to use the coastal landscape around Bergen as a place for the showing of performance art. We wished to invite artists with international experience to meet and collaborate with our own milieu. In 2011, the group became Performance Art Bergen (PAB) and AktB was buried.
The board decided early that a combination of local and international engagement should be fostered in the program of activities; meaning that this time the national perspective was included and equally valued.
Marhaug, Rita. “Local (national) Global.” In Frist Move: Performance Art Bergen 2011–15, edited by Anett Haukås and Kurt Johannessen, 52–69. Norway: Performance Art Bergen and PABlish, 2015.